Best Of :: Shopping & Services
Don't be frightened: When you first walk into Gumballs after picking your way through a jungle of plastic trikes, wagons and other yard toys parked in front, it's a little bit frightening, like entering the remains of a trailer park ravaged by spring tornadoes. But step lightly over the shoes piled up in the aisles, and be brave: The stuff's there, at least what's in season, from frilly Easter dresses to swimsuits and leotards for little water babies and dancers. It's all used, accepted on a straight fifty-fifty consignment deal, and though it's tightly packed on the racks, there are plenty of clean and pressed treasures to be unearthed. Such as: sweet frocks from Baby Lulu and Biobottoms, an entire rack of secondhand Gymboree duds, Disney videos and a painted wooden Babar rocker that could be the centerpiece of any well-appointed nursery, all at prices well below what you'd pay for them new.
There are any number of travel agencies and Web sites out there willing to explain the joys of hacking through some fetid South American rainforest. When you need the real dope, though, head to the Jefferson County Health Department's International Health Clinic. There, Janet Ballantyne, the take-no-microbes registered nurse who runs the joint, will give you the lowdown on -- and vaccines for -- the tubercular-ridden, Japanese-encephalitis-infested corner of the world you thought you wanted to visit (until now). An office visit is $15 plus the cost of the vaccines; a full "be scared -- be very scared" consultation is $50.
Tired of viewing old pot shards and ethnic weaving products in tasteful displays behind glass? Time to pay a call on Window to the World Museum, a private museum-in-a-mall that holds a globe-girdling collection of memorabilia and souvenirs from its owner/curator's adventures. Sue Koenig taught in Jefferson County schools for twenty years, traveling on her summers off. But in 1984 she decided she wanted something entirely different, so she signed on with an oil company to teach in Saudi Arabia. But when she arrived, she discovered a single woman couldn't check into a hotel room alone, much less run a classroom. Koenig eventually found a job arranging and leading tours outside of the country, and didn't return to the States for good for another twelve years. Today, she keeps busy tending to her 44,000-pound collection of keepsakes from 108 countries, which she shows to groups-- by appointment only.
Doug and Barbara Crispin managed to grow African violets in the tundra. That should tell you something about the crop at their shop in Englewood, the Violet Showcase, the only store of its kind in the country. The Violet Showcase is packed with new and unusual varieties of the world's most popular houseplant, African violets in pink, purple, white, red and all colors in between. The Crispins grow and sell flowers in the store, stock everything from grow lights to leaf support rings to self-watering pots, and ship orders nationwide. "It's an odd little business," Doug says of the 31-year-old shop. "We're basically a plant farm, roadside stand, mail-order company and retail shop all in one."
Located in the new, improved University Hills complex, Timbuk Toys still manages to exude the feel of a neighborhood store. Featuring an attentive staff that obviously enjoys children, it offers a versatile selection and wide price range for a relatively small space. Mostly, though, it's just fun to go to, fully lacking the plasticized overkill of a big-box toy store. From Beanie Babies to tea-party dishes, hobby horses to wooden train sets, the store has something for everyone under the age of twelve. Better yet, it's still a pleasure to visit for anyone over the age of twelve.
If it's getting more and more difficult to call great-aunt Edna's Morris chair an "heirloom," perhaps its time for a touchup. Be kind to your mold-crusted chair. Or throw it away and start from scratch. Little more than a hole-in-the-wall with eclectic collectibles on South Pearl Street, Yesterday's Child, which stands by the motto of "My Chair or Yours," applies a personal touch to the art of refurbishing furniture. Don't just sit there!